Or so sang Peggy Lee, in a bittersweet song about the ironies of despair.
Behind the scenes pic of model Loula bae and Yours Truly, by Shantel Smith
As many of you may have gathered, I have often regretted coming back to photography in recent years, and have constantly wondered what kind of mental impediment is stopping me from giving it all away, and taking up something much easier and far less stressful, such as do it yourself brain surgery…no doubt you can learn it on YouTube!
I have survived through the devaluing of a photograph’s worth from an era when tens, and in many cases hundreds of dollars were happily paid for a competent, serviceable picture; to a time when even high quality photos can be had for a small fraction of a dollar, and the rest for a mere coin or two.
I have heard the self serving bleating of the increasingly vocal agitators who would have us believe that all photographs, and the , ethics, behaviour, normsoutput of all the creative arts in fact, should be free for the taking, for ‘the benefit of mankind’. Unfortunately an increasing number of what I can only assume are brain dead ‘artists’ are actually now supporting this view as well.
Of late there are also a large number of ‘photographers’ who have readily adopted the ‘pay to be published’ lunacy, and the former demon of vanity publishing is slowly being accepted as mainstream and to actually be aspired to: no doubt for that marvellous and mythical creature – ‘exposure’, but as expected the results are of such a abysmal standard, that even the photographer’s mum would balk at forking out the extortionate prices.
For the majority of my photographic career, I have told would be models that all they really had to worry about was the odd sleazebag, who, with a few skills and a keen bullshit radar, were relatively easy to deal with.
Over the past five years or so the number of sleazebags have exploded exponentially, but when you see what else has developed in that time, sleazoids are the least of anyone’s worries.
During that time I have witnessed the aggressive monopolizing of any and all girls in the area with even an inkling of becoming a model, by a highly organised gang of pretenders, who promise the world, use them as camera fodder for two or three weeks, before spitting them out disillusioned and demoralised, their dreams shattered, having learned nothing, with little chance of ever getting anywhere in modelling, and with a couple of useless photos in their hot little hands, which if they risk the humiliation after their escapade in futility, agents will tell them, (as many already have,) are “garbage”.
I have also been told of wannabe models being reduced to tears, and vilified on social media, because they question the ‘necessity’ of baring all if they actually want to be a ‘real’ model, (and the assumption that they should automatically strip for the neighbourhood hack so he can ‘make them a star’) and others who were roundly criticized for not ” doing their model stuff” properly when given absolutely no direction, or even having the concept of the shoot explained to them.
Another who was a personal friend, was slandered relentlessly on social media simply because she would not continue negotiating by facebook messenger with “photographers” who would not commit to a shoot date and time, required her to come up with not only the theme for the shoot, but also arrange for stylist, and the makeup artist, and even provide the location, or book the studio at her own expense. Most of the criticism came however from her refusal to continue communications with ” photographers” whose only obvious intentions were to ‘chat her up’ or to see selfies of her ‘nekid’.
From the photographers point of view, all that had to worried about in the past, was the occasional jealous boyfriend, or the odd bruise from the biffo of the media scrum. But things have certainly changed now.
I have also seen the good names of photographers of long and proud reputation dragged through the mud by the innuendo and false accusations of secret hate groups on facebook, with no regard to people’s hard won and well established careers. The same despicable hate groups, consisting of what can only be described as gangs of photographic thugs, have also been responsible for issuing physical threats towards totally innocent people, they have never met, or have absolutely no knowledge of, based on no more than that particular photographer’s superior ethical behaviour, their obvious photographic knowledge and abilities which put them on a higher level than the gang members could ever dream of aspiring to, or they were simply seen as unwelcome “competition”
I have heard many horror stories as well as personally witnessed photographers verbally, and in one case physically assaulted simply because he was covering an event where children were present…no not as an amateur, certainly not as a GWC, (the lowly regarded, perpetually slimy ‘guy with a camera’), but as staff professionals, and credentialed stringers doing the job they were being paid to do.
I have also been on the receiving end too many times to recall, when ‘mum and pop’ snap-shooters with their dinky point and shoot cameras, have forced their way to the front of a group of working photographers, got their snaps, and then with an organised barrage of friends planted themselves, intentionally and very intrusively forming a mobile wall to prevent anyone else getting a shot.
I have also been privy to paying customers (who incidentally paid dearly) returning to ‘photography studios’ to complain about the atrociously lit, ineptly exposed, hopelessly composed, and cheaply printed individual and family portrait wall prints…what I myself described as blurry mud maps of barely recognisable subjects… to be sent unceremoniously away with assertions that what they had received was ‘state of the art’, ‘creative’ and they wouldn’t get any better ‘art’ anywhere else.
In that time, we have all seen the proliferation of so much misinformation, confusion, lies and deception, trolling and abuse, and downright nonsense via the internet, that lunacy has become the accepted norm, and mediocrity and ineptitude qualities to aspire to.
I haven’t bothered to mention the personal slander and vilification simply for refusing to be part of the photography gang of heavies, the online trolling and bullying tactics, the surreptitious and ‘poison pen’ emailing of potential models, ( which suddenly resulted in them cancelling shoot dates), the time wasted traveling to see and interviewing girls who never had any intention of standing in front of a camera, those who only wanted ‘pretty pictures’ at no cost, the increasing number of cheap tarts who were labouring under the illusion that merely offering to ‘git naked’ would buy anything and all they wanted.
Not to mention the hours of processing and editing for unappreciative models who had ‘changed their mind’ or decided that their selfies were much better after all. And all the lazy new generation of girls who believed that they would become instant models, (or public figures) and everything necessary would be done for them, their career and untold riches laid at their feet, without them even having to wash their hair, tidy their nails or clean their teeth, or apply a little deodorant.
But then I walk into our little studio, to be met by the enthusiasm, happiness, excitement, generosity, and sheer exhilaration on the faces of my creative director and her overwhelmingly eager assistant, and the beautiful, well thought out and very creative set they have designed and constructed, working voluntarily through the early hours of the morning,
…and I am reminded what it is all about.
And then to see the beaming smile on my favourite model, walk confidently, resplendent in her glamorous alter ego, onto that same set: the enthusiasm, the expectation, the creativity, the dedication, the happiness, the trust, the respect and yes, the love and genuine affection
…and all the shit disappears in an instant, into insignificance.
I know exactly why I started doing this, why I have stuck at it so long, and why I continue to do it now when there are far better and more lucrative things to be doing.
Right from the beginning with the beautiful Bronwen Creevey, who was the first girl I ever photographed, and who went on to modelling success at the top level, who has been a loyal and wonderful friend for over forty years…
to the exceptional Lucy Scott, who has become a very special and cherished friend in just over four weeks…
and all the individual models in between, some who made it big, others who simply enjoyed their fifteen minutes in the spotlight,
but each and every one has made it worthwhile.
©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXVII
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